Published: 04 June 2015

 [4.31 p.m.]

Ms  FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I have been listening to the debate with interest and coming from a farming background, I know the cold, harsh reality of some of the challenges farmers face:  having to make those difficult decisions about animals that are not well, whether you can nurse them back to health or whether they need to be put down.  It is not an easy thing.


I also know there have been some terrible examples of cruelty and not just by the odd person.  There is a significant number, otherwise we would not be looking at this law.  It is not just about farm animals; we are talking about a range of animals.  I hear what the member for Apsley says, but unfortunately we do have to make laws for the lowest common denominator - that is the reality.


Mr Valentine - It has to apply to everybody.


Ms FORREST - Yes, if some people do the right thing, they will not fall foul of the law anyway so they do not need to worry about it.  But for those who do not do the right thing, we do need to have measures in place to deal with that.


Mr Valentine - It is like the gun law debate.


Ms FORREST - Yes, it is like many debates we have in this place.  We do not base them on trust.  We make the rules apply to everyone equally, or we should, we try to.  I agree with the member for Rosevears who said that animal cruelty is unacceptable in a civil society.  It is an indication of deeper things in a person's character.  If a person is willing to harm animals, they are often willing to harm other people.  Plenty of research shows that unfortunately in some of these cases that come before the courts in which people have been extremely violent toward fellow humans, they were often violent toward animals in their childhood.  It is something we need to take a strong stand on.


I commend the Government for taking on board the recommendations.  I know that not all of the recommendations are being addressed in this bill.  The Leader has assured us that more will follow and more consultation is to occur on some of those.  I thank the Leader for the briefings as well.  The ones the Government has moved forward with are the ones they have had consultation on and which generally had broad support.  That was the indication at the briefings and from the Leader in her speech.  I am assuming that is the case and I suppose she will clarify that when she responds.


As the Leader said in her speech, the Government considers a contemporary approach to animal welfare in Tasmania should protect animals from cruelty and also foster good animal husbandry.  Of course there is a balance in that.  There are times when events such as severe weather events occur in which animals may be injured or killed in numbers.  If a vicious storm comes through blowing down trees and barns, a number of animals may have been injured and killed.  If someone went past not long after that event and saw the suffering animals and then makes a complaint, when the farmer is still trying to clean up and fix all their problems, and perhaps the farmer himself or herself has been injured as well in trying to protect the animals, surely we need a system that allows mitigating circumstances to be taken into consideration.  That person does not have a history of this, they are mindful of their animals' welfare and suddenly such an event occurs.


As far as this isolated incidence, there needs to be a framework that provides for that.  I am hopeful that we have that balance.  The Leader indicated in her speech that that is what we are seeking to achieve, and essentially it does that.  She also made the point that this legislation does not place unnecessary regulatory burdens on members of the community, and industry should do the right thing.  If people are doing the right thing they need have no fear of this legislation, which is the case with all legislation.


I asked a question in the briefings that I would like the Leader to address in her response, either now or in the Committee stage, in relation to why we have all the changes to the regulations in a bill when we have a well-established regulatory amendment process for amending regulations.  More than half of this bill is made up of changing regulations, particularly penalties in the regulations.  You can put a regulation-making power in the principal act which says the Government can make regulations for this legislation and penalty rates can be set.


I still find it confusing, to say the least, and questionable, as to why we would have regulations in the bill in such a way.  It may be that previous governments have done this and this is the way the bill came.  It does not mean that you repeat mistakes of the past.  Here is an opportunity to change it.  I will let the Leader address that in her response because it seems the wrong way around in many ways.


I was also interested to hear the Leader say in her speech that aggravated cruelty is sometimes an unfortunate and extreme reality.  This bill will increase the maximum custodial sentence for aggravated cruelty from 18 months to 60 months.  That is not unreasonable.  When there are extreme cases, and particularly repeat offenders, there needs to be a degree of flexibility.  She goes on to say:


Whilst ultimately sentencing is a matter for the courts, this sends a strong signal of deterrence and appropriate sentencing options.


I could not agree more.  What are we changing now?  Why has the Government taken a different approach to this?  The sentencing is a matter for the courts.  That might come back at a later time when we talk about mandatory sentencing


Dr Goodwin - They need more guidance.


Ms FORREST - This is one for later.  I might have to bring it back another time.  Just giving the heads up and a warning so you know.


It was interesting and appropriate to have other measures for alternative sentencing options that are in the bill.  I know the Leader is doing some work on this, and other areas on alternative sentencing options.  I was intrigued to think whether the psychological counselling was for the animal or for the person, but I think it is for the person.


My question to the Leader in that regard, either in her response or when we reach the Committee stage, is that I think it is a good idea because maybe we can reduce the likelihood of reoffending.  I think that is the purpose behind it, which is good, and we could probably use more of it in other areas, not just in this area of animal welfare, which is probably what the Leader is looking at in her review of these options.


Has the cost of this been determined and will it be resourced?  These sorts of things are not without cost - differing sentencing options, particularly the counselling.  I know it is not a huge cost but it needs to be borne by somebody and I assume if a court sentences someone to these other measures, I am not sure who is expected to pay that.  I am interested whether that has been costed and if the resourcing of that falls to the government or is it up to the person to pay?  If a person cannot afford to pay, it is not going to happen anyway.  If it is court‑mandated, they are required to.  I would like the Leader to address that.


The addition of review processes through the Magistrates Court is appropriate and when the member for Apsley talked about the incident of the lady with the horses, had there been a different process for a review, it would at least have provided her with an opportunity to get some more answers.


Ms Rattray - The Ombudsman couldn't do anything because they weren't a statutory officer.


Ms FORREST - That is right.  The bill changes that too, which is appropriate.  If this proposed legislation we are dealing with now had been in force for this constituent of the member for Apsley, she may have seen a different outcome.  At least she would have had more opportunity to visit her horses and potentially see that they were not put down.  Whether she was able to have custody or care of them again I do not know, but it could have been a different outcome.  It was terribly traumatic for her.


Ms Rattray - And it is still traumatic.  She has not been able to get over it.


Ms FORREST - Yes.  To some people they are like children.  It is like having a child taken from them, and not being able to see that child.  Such is the way they value and treat some of their pets.  But if there is a real case of cruelty then obviously that is an issue.  Some people are cruel to their children too.


These are appropriate measures in the legislation and I understand why the Government wants to proceed with these ahead of some of the others that need more time and consultation.  I would like an indication from the Leader if she is able to provide the time frame for the next tranche of amendments, and which areas we will be looking at that have not been addressed already.


I want to speak briefly on the pronged collar issue.  I listened with interest to the comments that have already been made around the Chamber about this.  The Leader will need to provide a bit more information about this either in her summing up or in the Committee stage.  She said in her second reading speech today that RSPCA Tasmania has strongly advocated this recommendation that the possession and use of pronged collars be prohibited and an amnesty period be provided so that pronged collars can be surrendered without penalty.  She notes that such collars are prohibited for import into Australia, and there are other more appropriate training devices available for dogs.  That was what I understood to be the case.


If these collars are prohibited for import, someone in Australia - I assume someone at a federal government level, or somewhere - has made a decision that pronged collars are not okay.  You are not allowed to import them.  I do not know if we manufacture them in this state or in the country.  If we do then that makes it a conflict.  I do not know the background to this and we need more information.  Perhaps we need to be more fully briefed on this before we can proceed.


I am happy to put this into the second reading and perhaps have a briefing when we get to that stage to better understand this.  If they are prohibited for import and the Australian government, or some organisation in Australia, has made a decision that they are not to be imported, and ipso facto not to be used, it is entirely appropriate that this amendment be supported.  It is really confirming what the government of Australia has already determined.  There is a big gap in the information, and we need to have a better understanding of this issue.  If there are other methods that are just as effective, and less potentially harmful to the dog, maybe that is the most appropriate decision.  But I need to know who made that decision about importation.  Was it just importation or can we still manufacture them in Australia and sell them in Australia?


Ms Rattray - The ones on eBay are only made in the US.


Ms FORREST - I understand that.  I know that.  Is it the Australian position that we cannot import them, but we can make our own?  If a body in Australia has made the decision that they are not to be used, and they cannot be imported, then this is appropriate.  The Leader has some work to do to bring us up to date.


Mrs Armitage - It appears that they are restricted under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations of 1956.


Ms FORREST - That is okay - you cannot bring them in.  But if we can make them in Australia and use them here, then that is a contradiction.


I am happy to support the bill at this stage but I think there is some work to be done.  Whether it needs to be done today or not, I don't know.  It is up to the Leader - well, up to us, really.


[4.45 p.m.]


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